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10% increase in STIs in UK since 2014

Wednesday 20th July 2016
New Public Health England figures reveal a ten per cent increase in STIs since 2014. Image: royaltystockphoto via iStock
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    There has been a three per cent increase in the number of sexually-transmitted infections (STIs) recorded in the UK since 2014, official figures reveal.

    Statistics from Public Health England (PHE) show that there were 434,456 new cases of STIs diagnosed in the country last year, marking an overall increase of three per cent, but a ten per cent rise among men who have sex with men.

    Which STIs are on the rise?

    The new PHE data shows that chlamydia is currently the most prevalent sexually-transmitted infection in England, accounting for almost half (46 per cent or 200,288) of all STI diagnoses in 2015, with genital warts the second most common infection with 68,310 recorded cases.

    What's more, there has been an increase of one-fifth in syphilis diagnoses since 2014, along with an 11 per cent rise in cases of gonorrhoea.

    In particular, gay men and black, ethnic minorities were found to be at the greatest risk of STI transmission, with the highest increases in all STIs occurring among these groups. This has been attributed to a lack of education of how to prevent the spread of STIs and why it is so important to practice safe sex among such individuals - something PHE wants to see tackled to lower figures in the future.

    However, there has been a marked decline in the number of women aged 25 and under being diagnosed with genital warts in the past year, which doctors believe is due to increased uptake in recent years of the national HPV vaccination programme. The injections are given to girls during their teenage years in a bid to prevent the spread of HPV, which can lead to conditions such as genital warts and even cervical cancer.

    Prevention strategies

    Dr Gwenda Hughes, head of STI surveillance at PHE, commented: "The new statistics show STI rates are still very high among gay men and young adults. We need to do more to raise awareness about STIs and how they can be prevented, especially the effectiveness of using condoms.

    "We recommend that anyone having sex with a new or casual partner uses condoms and tests regularly for HIV and STIs. It is also vital to ensure there is easy access to STI testing and treatment services that meet the needs of local populations."

    In addition, PHE recommends that health boards throughout the UK focus on implementing new STI prevention strategies, particularly for gay men and black ethnic minorities, as the spread of infection is high among these groups.

    PHE also believes that the speed at which patients can access STI treatment should be quickened to prevent their infection from spreading further and that under-25s should receive annual chlamydia testing or be screened for the condition every time they change sexual partner.

    However, in 2015, just 13 per cent of men aged 25 and under and 32 per cent of young women accepted chlamydia screening, meaning that there are potentially hundreds of thousands of under-25s living with the infection and unknowingly passing it on to their sexual partners.

    What's more, it is recommended that men who have sex with men should have annual HIV and STI tests, with tests increasing to one every three months if they are engaging in unprotected sex or sleeping with multiple partners.

    Written by Martin Lambert

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